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Simplicity – The Vision for the Future

Leonardo da Vinci’s reflection, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” is timeless wisdom gained from his remarkable breadth of studies ranging from history to art to science to innovation. 

 

By Linda Maclachlan

 

Simplicity. It’s absolutely essential to the quick adoption of new technologies, new products and even new ideas. Simplification in design, rollouts and use is also where the future of IT is headed, not only because it creates economic, organizational and resource efficiencies, but because it creates faster, easier adoption. Yet, for many IT leaders, simplicity becomes an evermore-difficult practical goal as our world evolves.

Take a look at Amazon’s AWS, which transformed, and is continuing to transform, the way companies deploy and consume computing power. However, there are still countless legacy systems chugging out day-to-day operations on internal data centers with some rather odd integrations to these new cloud applications.  Likely not optimal.

Here’s another example. The rate of mergers and acquisitions has been on the rise since 2009.  Yet, the timeline for completing the business side of the acquisition generally runs far faster than the time and resources needed to integrate the IT components most efficiently.

 

Simplicity and the C-Suite

Simplicity is no simple task, but a necessary one. How do I make it all happen – on schedule and in budget? How do I forge a path to deliver what the business needs? The promise of, “Someday soon we will go back and clean this all up,” runs counter to the unrelenting fact that life in the technology world only speeds up. And there’s no looking back.

As any CIO knows, simplicity is a nearly impossible challenge… some might even say Sisyphean. When you inherit an environment fraught with disparate systems that lack standardization and process, combined with the pressure to add more and do more, it’s easy to feel like you’re single-handedly pushing a boulder uphill. But savvy business leaders, regardless of whether they hold the title of CEO, CIO, COO, CSO, or Head of Sales, know deep down that the uphill climb of simplification is the right direction to point your boardroom feet. The journey to efficiency, profitability, and real competitive advantage may be a difficult one, but the resulting opportunity to launch innovative products and services is well worth the effort.

The Herculean task is to find order in disorder, and there are two initial steps to take that will help kickstart your IT transformation journey:  consolidation and standardization.

 

Step 1: Consolidate

Future-focused CIOs know that the first step is to cut out all unnecessary and redundant assets, including systems, applications, hardware, processes, and services. It’s a process known to many gardeners as “deadheading” – cutting all non-essential assets back to the lowest possible place on the vine and consolidating to a single system of engagement.

In an industry with hundreds of thousands of partners and vendors, the idea of a singular IT platform was once a pipedream, but CIOs are quickly learning the power of ONE:  One Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB) that is accurate and contains all IT assets, one database of resources, one alerting system that correlates and escalates all monitoring alerts throughout the organization, one change management process to control all system-wide updates, and the list goes on.

A single system of engagement allows CIOs to see the unnecessary complexities, to discover rogue applications, to see wasted cloud storage and expense, and to begin to put 2 and 3 and 2 and 5 together and make 4, ultimately delighting the CFO and paving the way for a smarter way to deploy new ideas.

This process, while often tedious, arduous and even painful, is necessary for CIOs to spearhead in order to accomplish a single, high-level goal: simplify IT operations by creating a baseline for process consistency.

 

Step 2: Standardize

Once IT systems have been consolidated, the next step on the efficiency journey is process standardization.  While never anyone’s favorite job, the results in increased business profitability and scalability are worth the diligence required to do it properly.

Standardizing everything – from naming conventions to change processes to incident management processes – allows the IT function to operate quickly in response to ever-changing business requirements. System standardization inevitably leads to the golden nuggets of simplifying and standardizing processes.  After all, every organization, in essence, is really just an expansive set of workflow processes.

And it is here – in process simplification done on top of consolidated, standardized, and simplified IT assets – where the magic of the automation journey begins.

As CIOs think about how to move their organizations forward and help make their enterprises “future-ready,” the concept and the power of simplification may seem counter-intuitive when “more” is being asked of CIOs every day.  With apologies to my grade school English teachers, “do less better” is possibly the single-most important IT task to achieve in this era.

Simplicity.  The ultimate sophistication.